Artist: Mimi Haddon
Media: Recycled T-Shirts
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery West
About the Artist
In 1994, Mimi Haddon received her bachelors degree in graphic design from California State University Long Beach and has since returned. She is now currently working on a Master of Fine Arts Degree within the School of Art, focusing on textiles and costume design. She anticipates graduation in the fall of 2017. Although this featured exhibition focuses in on recycled t-shirts and bright colors, Haddon also works with many different mediums of art. She mostly works extensively with her photography background, hiring models specifically with a sense of humor to match her own. She carefully selects them based on their understanding of her work and the meaning behind her projects. For this exhibition, Haddon was inspired by Ghanaian sculptor, El Anatsui who created sculptures using discarded bottle caps.
In her exhibit, Haddon used a combination of colorful t-shirts to create her art since it was something that was readily available in our society. She started the project with 100 t-shirts but eventually added a few hundred more. Haddon then cut off different sections of the shirts and weaved, braided, and wrapped the fabric. For example, the sleeves were used to create the exhibit on the wall which displayed lines of balloon looking sacks. The exhibit on the floor was made of thin strips of t-shirts woven into a large tapestry. It seemed to resemble a blanket or a rug laying there in a very relaxed, slouchy manner. Another one was made up of stripes while the last one was covered in polka dots. Out of the four exhibits, each one had its own unique quality. One of the biggest qualities, shown in all exhibits was the vibrant, bright quality; the combination of color easily grabs the viewers attention from the moment they enter the gallery. None of the t-shirts used in the process were dyed and all displayed their original color. There was not a specific pattern in the colors but she gravitated mainly towards warm tones with a few cool shades here and there.
Since Haddon often works with photography and human models, she wanted to do something different for this exhibit by moving away from the body. Instead, she wanted to see how she could work with architecture and the concept of space. She explained that she believes architecture itself has it’s own body much like humans and is really trying to explore this concept in her exhibition. Haddon explained how the exhibit on the wall was inspired by a photograph she took of inflated balloons at the Santa Monica Pier. Unlike the inflated balloons in her photograph, she designed this piece to represent a feeling of deflation while also incorporating the vivid colors-perhaps symbolizing a sliver of hope? The bright colors in her exhibit represent a sense of fun playfulness. The whimsicality of the art can almost bring viewers back to a simpler time of childhood full of bright colors and a carefree attitude. Haddon discussed the impact that colors have on her perception of art, especially after being inspired by Joseph Albers’ Interaction of Color: a book explaining the theory of color. She also explored further into the theory and planning behind color in a recent class she took at CSULB. While at times color combinations may seem random, they are often carefully selected in order to invoke a certain emotion or response from the viewer. She expanded on this by describing the effect of looking at a colorful work of art and then staring at a blank while and seeing something very different.
Haddon’s exhibit really appealed to me through the bright colors and whimsical nature. It was nothing like I had ever seen before and I was overcome with awe. Personally, it brought out feelings of childhood and innocence. However, the balloon piece dove into a deeper level of maturity and struggles that we go through as we grow up. Her use of the t-shirt sleeves characterized a feeling of deflation, or even defeat and despair that we often feel through adolescence. Things become harder than when we were carefree children. Now we have to worry about greater things like education, finances, illness, relationships, etc. and things do not always go the way we anticipate. I interpreted this piece as this representation of defeat that also included a sliver of hope represented with the bright colors. Maybe even the childish nature we still hold at heart. I also resonated with Haddon’s use of simple t-shirts as her medium. They are so normal in our lives and it is unlikely for us to think of them as art, but she took something plain and turned it into something beautiful. While collecting all the materials, she discovered that somewhere around 2 billion t-shirts are sold each year! Many of these are those t-shirts we have from random events that we only wear a few times and then discard. She brought up an interesting point about how many of these actually end up in landfills each year? This really tugged on my heart strings since I believe our society doesn’t love and nurture the earth in the way we should. I recently watched a Buzzfeed video on how much landfill we create each day and it was extremely eye opening into how much of our waste we just bury under the earth’s surface. I believe in Los Angeles alone, around 9 million tons of waste were disposed into the land fill in only one day. It’s extremely upsetting. I found it very inspiring that Haddon was using these old t-shirts and making actual art instead of adding more to the pileup of waste.